When a movie hits the zeitgeist with the force of the “Wonder Woman” glass-ceiling-shattering $103-million opening, Oscar speculation is inevitable. But let’s get real. Comic-book superhero epics rarely yield major Oscar nominations, no matter how much audiences and critics rave about Patty Jenkins’ superb achievement. (More about how the movie broke DC’s losing streak here.)
There’s no question Academy voters will see the movie: Members were turned away at the packed Academy screening at the Goldwyn Theatre Saturday. (They book weekend screenings year round, but summer flicks are often less attended.) Warners did not supply anyone for a Q&A, because ahead of the anticipated opening, “Wonder Woman” was not considered an Oscar contender. Now it is, and Warners will certainly push for it. But what will they likely get?
Most often, superhero movies are in the running for VFX and technical nods — they even win some, especially with the original iteration, before it’s a full-fledged franchise (See: the original Dick Donner “Superman,” Tim Burton’s first “Batman,” “Dick Tracy,” “Men in Black,” and “Spider-Man 2”). It’s hard to believe that Christopher Nolan has yet to land an Oscar nomination as director, or that “The Lego Movie” failed to land an animation nod. (Heath Ledger won a rare posthumous acting Oscar for “The Dark Knight.”) Even the JK Rowling “Harry Potter” series landed 12 technical nominations over eight movies — and never won.
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While “Wonder Woman” is a superior effort all around and will compete for craft recognition, it’s hard to imagine the movie without Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. Jenkins and her two leads brought the movie home with a high degree of difficulty. Israeli-trained Gadot makes a sweet, tough, beautiful, athletic, exotic, idealistic, no-nonsense, believable Amazon goddess fighting to save the world from the God of War. And experienced “Star Trek” star Pine, who has serious theater chops as well, served the role of audience surrogate, helping Wonder Woman navigate our crazy culture as she demonstrates her amazing skills, while of course falling in love with her. We all do.
The two actors are at turns vulnerable, bewildered, confused, authoritative, charming, seductive, opportunistic, anxious, needy, and powerful. And they maneuvered through some witty moments and dialogue. They make the movie light on its feet; until the inevitably over-pixelated finale, “Wonder Woman” doesn’t get ponderous or heavy.
That said: Although George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” landed 10 nominations including Picture and Director, and six eventual wins, the cinematic actioner did not land acting nominations for the magnificent Charlize Theron or Tom Hardy. But their roles were virtually without dialogue. “Wonder Woman,” like James Mangold’s end-of-the-road Wolverine finale, “Logan,” gives its actors plenty to do — a little romance, adventure, action; there’s more for the actors to hang onto. (That’s another comic-book movie that could yield some nominations this year.)
On the basis that the Academy will continue to lean into inclusion, I’m betting that both Gadot and Pine will be nominated, as Best Actress and Supporting Actor, respectively, with Jenkins — depending on how generous the Guilds and critics will be at year’s end — scoring some Best Director nods.